Last year, for a celebrity news magazine that shall not be named here, I covered a celebrity gala where there was a chance that I might possibly have a minute to interview Miley Cyrus. My editor supplied me with a raft of questions to ask Miley if she honored me with a red carpet grip-and-greet (spoiler: she didn’t), and among them was, “Have you reached out to support Demi Lovato?”
Demi Lovato? She was one of those Disney kids, right? Why would she need support? I wouldn’t want things to be awkward if Miley broke down in tears and wanted to get real about Demi and her struggles, so I did my homework.
Indeed Demi Lovato was one of those Disney kids —but before that, she was one of those Barney kids, co-starring with Selena Gomez. When Lovato grew up to have serious pipes, Disney signed her to the lead in Camp Rock and gave her a record deal with Hollywood Records. Camp Rock was a hit, and the star-making machine roared into full gear.
It turned out, though, that fate had an earlier-than-usual burnout in store for the teen queen. Still dealing with self-esteem issues from childhood, Lovato fell victim to cutting and an eating disorder, going down what might be the only road that leads to a physical altercation with a Jonas Brothers backup dancer that’s not the least bit funny.
Lovato did a stint in rehab and then, with genuinely impressive speed and sincerity, turned her personal struggles into a public campaign to improve the lives of other young people facing similar struggles. She Twitter-shamed Disney into shelving TV show episodes containing offensive jokes about eating disorders, and the launch of Lovato’s comeback tour was the occasion for an MTV documentary where she spoke frankly about her illnesses.
None of this makes her Tina Turner, but it does give her a little more weight to swing from than the average pop starlet has. She also happens to have some above-average material on her 2011 album Unbroken, including her current hit—and highest-charting single to date—”Give Your Heart a Break.” Written and produced by Josh Alexander and Billy Steinberg, the song begins with a “Call Me Maybe“-style breathy tease over rhythmic strings…but this chorus isn’t playful, it’s explosively anthemic, led into with a long declarative build and followed by the kind of impassioned repeats that you might find in the playbook of, say, Tegan and Sara. It’s the kind of song that, if you hit it on the radio at the right time of night at the right time of your life after the wrong kind of date, might just make you cry.
As for the Justin-Francis-directed video…the less said about it the better, especially since the object of Lovato’s adoration is the creepily photogenic Alex Bechet, who would be all too believable as a Jonas Brothers backup dancer. Just listen to the song and let the scarred young star give your heart a goddamn break already.
If you watch the MTV doc, you’ll see that you’re even in Demi Lovato’s sincerely-expressed prayers. Clasping her touring crew’s hands in a circle, she closes her eyes and implores the Almighty to ”take whatever pain is inside these audience members, and let them have fun tonight.” Right back atcha, kid.
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